Friday, March 1, 2024

The Wainwright’s St. Louis History

St. Louis’s brewers are not all German. The Gateway City’s Teutonic beer monopoly was broken by the Wainwrights family. Their story is remarkable and often overlooked by other more famous families. Samuel Ellis and a second Ellis were pioneers in business and brewing throughout the 19th century. They started at a small brewery close to the Levee and later moved on to a larger facility that was founded by an older brother, a legendary St. Louis brewer. To top it all, the Ellis family hired a Chicago-based architecture firm to design an office building in downtown St. Louis.

Samuel Wainwright, the son of Joseph Wainwright, a wealthy English porter, and ale brewer, was born in Pittsburgh, on March 6, 1822. In St. Louis’ brewing history, much has been written about how German Lager beer, introduced by Adam Lemp in the 1840s, quickly overtook the English-style porter and ale market. However, current advertisements and industrial censuses prove that this is not the case. Along with their German lager counterparts, Ales and Porters continued to be popular, and many German-American beer brewers also made English-style beers. For example, the English-style beers of Cherokee Brewery were a German American operation.

According to the Encyclopedia of the History of St. Louis biography, Samuel moved to the city in 1846. He purchased the Fulton Brewery with the help of his father, a prominent brewer from Pittsburgh. In partnership with Ellis, he was located at Main and Almond streets. According to an advertisement published in the German-language newspaper Anzeiger des Westens dated February 5, 1845, the brothers contracted with a George Wolf, located on South Second Street in the heart German-American business district (Adam Lemp’s Western Brewery was close by) to distribute their beer.

Unfortunately, we don’t know much about Samuel’s younger brother. He died in 1849. According to an article published in the Anzeiger des Westens on February 6, 1845, Ellis was involved with Second Ward politics. Another article, dated February 11, 1845, states that Ellis served in the volunteer fire brigade for the Washington Firehouse. This was owned by George Schneider (whom we reviewed last year in the story about the founding of Bavarian Brewery). Even though they were English Americans, it seems that Ellis and his brothers had to be involved in at least some German-American political and social life to make a living as brewers in St. Louis.

Samuel purchased his brother’s estate outright in 1851. Or at least that is what he believed. We find Book U5, pages 297-99, in the archives of the Recorder of Deeds office. It reveals that Ellis’s widow, Catherine sued her brother-in-law over unresolved probate questions. Samuel was his brother’s estate administrator. Ellis had died without a will. Catherine requested the assistance of two additional lawyers to manage her husband’s estate. The case reached the Missouri Supreme Court where Samuel won against Catherine and other relatives to protect his brother’s Fulton Brewery.

Adolphus Busch’s older brother, George, was busy starting his brewery in St. Louis in 1848. The malt house was built on Third and Plum streets. Busch built a respectable brewery that was bordered by Ninth and Tenth streets, Gratiot, Cerre, and Gratiot. Charles A. Fritz was a partner in the 1850 industrial census, which reported a large brewery.

“George Busch Brewery” $20,000 capital investment, 6,000 bushels hops valued at $1.500, and 8,000 bushels barley valued at $8,000. 6 men, $120 per month, 4,000 barrels beer and ale valued at $24,000

Samuel bought a stake at the Busch Brewery. As you can see from the advertisement below, the Busch name was retained even though it had new owners.

“Busch’s Lager Beer Brewery in Fritz, Wainwright & Co. is always available, Lager Beer, Ale, Porter, Malt and Hops, Malt and Hops to any Quantity, Malt For Distilling or Brewing of Good Quality. You can order at D. H. Evens at 191-3 N. Main Street; the Malt House at Plum Street between 3rd & 4th Streets and at the Brewery at 10th Street between Cerre & Gratiot.

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